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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Miami Dolphins

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Last year was a mess for the Dolphins, one they hope to put behind them faster than a Mike Wallace go route. The Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito saga still hangs over the franchise's head, and they are desperate to turn the page.

The first move was revamping the offensive line, and they signed free agents at left tackle (Branden Albert) and left guard (Shelley Smith) and spent a first round pick on a right tackle in Ja'Wuan James and a third-round pick on a right guard in Billy Turner. That makes four new starters around center Mike Pouncey, who hopefully will be fine coming off hip surgery in June, and the goal is to help third-year starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked a league-high 58 times in 2013.

They also need to help the running game, which was putrid last year (No. 26 in the NFL), and adding Knowshon Moreno as a free agent should help. And the Dolphins have a new play-caller in Bill Lazor, who was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia last season.

We're not expecting the Dolphins to resemble the Eagles by any stretch, but there's plenty of talent in Miami to help Fantasy owners. Tannehill could emerge as a viable Fantasy quarterback, Moreno has the chance to remain a starting running back and Wallace, Brian Hartline and Charles Clay are either serviceable starters (Wallace) or bye-week replacements (Hartline and Clay).

Lamar Miller and Jarvis Landry also have potential, but the key is the offensive line. As Pouncey said in an interview with CBSSports.com this offseason, "We're going to be ready to go." If you like any of the Dolphins players this year then let's hope Pouncey is right.

Reality after Peyton ... Knowshon Moreno

Moreno never had to worry about extra defenders near the line of scrimmage thanks to Manning and the Broncos passing game. He flourished in 2013 with career highs in rushing yards (1,038), rushing touchdowns (10), catches (60) and receiving yards (548), and he averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had 13 total touchdowns to finish as the No. 5 Fantasy running back in standard leagues.

Maybe Tannehill will earn that same respect to keep defenders concerned about his arm, but he'll never approach Manning's status. And because of that we expect Moreno to take a significant step back in production, along with a knee injury that could sideline him into training camp.

He also has to keep Miller off the field, and the Dolphins offensive line has to prove its worth. Moreno should still be considered a flex option if healthy and is worth drafting in Round 7 or 8 depending on the size of your league. But don't go into your season with Moreno as a starting option because you'll be left disappointed.

Better than you think ... Mike Wallace

Most Fantasy owners are going to look at Wallace's production in 2013 as a disappointment, and rightfully so. He finished the year with 73 catches for 930 yards and a career-low five touchdowns. But if he plays like he did at the end of the season -- he had 29 catches for 396 yards and four touchdowns over the final six games, scoring at least 14 Fantasy points in three of those outings -- then he could rebound in 2014. And it's not a stretch in Lazor's offense.

The Dolphins didn't move Wallace around last year, but Lazor plans to use Wallace like the Eagles did with DeSean Jackson. Giving Wallace some different looks should help his production.

And when the Dolphins featured Wallace he was productive. He had at least nine targets in nine games and he finished with at least eight Fantasy points in seven of those contests.

He's the type of receiver you'll settle for on Draft Day with a mid-round pick as a No. 3 option, but don't be upset about it. If he plays like he did at the end of the season then you'll end up starting him more often than not.

This year's surprise? ... Ryan Tannehill

2013 Touches Leaders
706 total touches
Lamar Miller 203 (177 car., 26 rec.) 28.7%
Daniel Thomas 124 (109 car., 15 rec.) 17.6%
Mike Wallace 76 (3 car., 73 rec.) 10.8%
Charles Clay 76 (7 car. 69 rec.) 10.8%
Brian Hartline 76 rec. 10.8%
All Others 151 21.4%

Lazor was obviously influential in helping Foles have a breakout season with the Eagles last year, and hopefully his tutelage will rub off on Tannehill. It was hard to fully gauge Tannehill's growth in his sophomore campaign in 2013 because of all the sacks, but the potential is there.

He narrowly missed a 4,000-yard season (3,913), and he passed for 24 touchdowns. He also had at least 18 Fantasy points in seven games. But he struggled as well, and he only posted 20 or more Fantasy points three times, starting in Week 13.

The upgrades along the offensive line should help, as will the additions of Moreno and Landry, and Wallace gets another year in the system. We could see Tannehill emerge as a mid-season starter, much like Foles last year, and he's someone to monitor if he goes undrafted in the majority of leagues.

Schedule analysis

Moreno is going to see plenty of familiar faces this year since the Dolphins face the AFC West, including his former team. He had double digits in Fantasy points in at least one meeting with Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego last year, so hopefully he can repeat those performances. And he should be highly motivated to face the Broncos in Denver in Week 12.

The season opens with a home matchup against the Patriots, meaning you might want to avoid Wallace and his showdown with Darrelle Revis. And the Dolphins might not help you much toward the end of the Fantasy season with matchups against Denver, the Jets, Baltimore and New England from Weeks 12-15.

Training camp battles

Who's the No. 1 running back? We're expecting Moreno to start for the Dolphins, if healthy, based on his body of work and performance in 2013, but Miller won't just hand him the job. We'll find out in training camp how Miller responds to being replaced, and keep in mind he's still a talented rusher, who has gotten the majority of offseason work. Maybe the offensive line held him back last year, and the play-calling under then-coordinator Mike Sherman was horrible. If Moreno is out for all of training camp then Miller would start. Both running backs are only worth drafting with mid-round picks.

Who's the No. 3 receiver? Wallace and Hartline are locked into the Top 2 spots on the depth chart, but Brandon Gibson, Landry and possibly Rishard Matthews will compete for the No. 3 role. Gibson was good in that role prior to going down with a knee injury with at least seven Fantasy points in a standard league in four of his first six games. But Landry was drafted in the third round after a productive career at LSU, and he has more upside than Gibson. Keep an eye on the battle, and the winner could be worth a late-round flier in deep PPR leagues.

Bold prediction

The Dolphins don't have an easy schedule to open the season with New England, Buffalo and Kansas City in the first three games, and those teams are going to challenge Miami's overhauled offensive line with a heavy pass rush. But if Tannehill can survive and somehow shine, he gets the Raiders in Week 4, which is a favorable matchup. A good performance there will catch Fantasy owners' attention heading into Miami's bye in Week 5, and in Week 6 they are home to Green Bay. Drew Brees will be on a bye that week, so Tannehill can be a definite option to start against the Packers. From that point forward he could develop into a weekly starter if he plays up to his potential.

Injury report

Brandon Gibson (knee), questionable for the start of training camp ... Knowshon Moreno (knee), questionable for the start of training camp ... Mike Pouncey (hip), questionable for the start of season

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Player News
Lions G Manny Ramirez ahead of Laken Tomlinson on first unit
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:03 pm ET) Many believed that guard and first-round pick Laken Tomlinson was a shoo-in to start for the Lions this season.

Not so fast.

Fellow newcomer Manny Ramirez, for whom the team traded in a swap with Denver, began OTAs this week working with the first team. Tomlinson was on the second unit.

Jim Caldwell explained why, praising the 32-year-old Ramirez along the way.

"He's a guy that's certainly going to add some girth and power and experience in the (interior)," Caldwell told MLive.com. "But, also, you can just tell from a leadership standpoint, I mean, he's tremendous. Real solid guy, just a person that's well-rounded, has a good sense of what being a real pro is. ... I think you'll see some of that wear off on some of our younger guys."

Ramirez was a full-time starter with the Broncos in each of the last three seasons.


Packers OLB Julius Peppers sent home from OTA's with illness
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:55 pm ET) Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers was absent from organized team activities on Thursday, per Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Peppers was sent home because of an apparent illness before practice started for the day.


Healthy QB Tony Romo providing optimism for Cowboys
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) A Tony Romo ahead of the game is a rather scary thought for NFL defenses. But such is the case for the Cowboys quarterback, who for the first time in three years is healthy at this point in the offseason.

In 2013, he was recovering from the removal of cyst. Last year he was battling back from a discectomy. But he's fine now and is performing quite well.

"It's been great," Romo told ESPN. "I think just to be able to kind of have an offseason. You're always rehabbing, but at the same time, I'm kind of able to build during this offseason. It's exciting really."

It's more exciting considering he is coming off his finest year, which featured a league-best completion percentage (69.9) and passer rating (113.2) with 34 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.

In training camp he never practiced more than two straight days, then sat out every Wednesday during the regular season. It remains to be seen if a healthy offseason translates into even better production for the 35-year-old Romo in 2015. The team will be careful in regard to his health.

"Tony's obviously further along," Jason Garrett said. "He didn't have an offseason surgery, so he was able to get a lot more things in our offseason program up to this point. ... You want to make sure you monitor him. ... He's handled everything we've asked him to do to this point really well."


WR Mike Wallace optimistic about fit in Vikings offense
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:38 pm ET) Vikings burner Mike Wallace has been in search of an offense that best fits his skill set since leaving Pittsburgh. He believes he has found one.

Wallace was stuck in a West Coast system in Miami, which resulted in two seasons with weaker numbers than he produced in his heyday with the Steelers. His 12.8 yards-per-catch average with the Dolphins was a far cry from the 17.2 he achieved previously. He caught 12 passes of 20-plus yards in Miami after snagging 44 in four years with Pittsburgh.

For a receiver that was clocked at 4.33 in the 40 in 2009, those statistics in Miami are unworthy of his speed. He is seeking a quarterback that can fire the ball downfield and will be given the freedom to do so. He is hoping it's Teddy Bridgewater. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is vowing to cut the offense loose, which pleases Wallace.

"I think it's more so [like] my first four years, he told ESPN. "It's a vertical offense, [rather] than a short, West Coast offense. You go down the field a lot more here, more what I'm accustomed to."


Cowboys DE Greg Hardy appeals 10-game suspension
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:29 pm ET) Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy and his representatives made an appearance in Washington D.C. this morning to argue in favor of reducing or overturning his 10-game suspension, per The Dallas Morning News.

Dallas, which doesn't play any role in the appeal process, is supporting its player from a far.

“No real comment beyond just supporting him,’’ head coach Jason Garrett said. “This is part of the process that he’s going to go through in appealing this suspension. He and his representatives will handle it as well as they can and we’ll see what happens.

“The biggest thing is to handle it the right way. We’re going to try to handle it the right way as an organization and we expect him to handle it the right way as an individual player."

A judge found Hardy guilty of domestic violence in July of 2014 and sentenced him to 18 months probation after suspending a 60-day jail sentence. 

Hardy and his reps will argue that he was found not guilty in the eyes of the law, and that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's punishment -- 10-game suspension -- was excessive compared to what was outlined in the personal conduct policy -- two-game suspension -- at the time of the incident involving his former girlfriend.

The NFL's investigation at the time concluded that Hardy's actions "constitutes a significant act of violence in violation of the Personal Conduct Policy.”


Expectations rising for Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(12:29 pm ET) After a breakout 2014 season, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is looking to build on his success. 

Kelce caught 67 passes for 862 yards and five touchdowns a year ago and figures to be even more of an integral part of Kansas City's offense. 

As a result, Kelce wants to raise the bar and set a higher standard for his personal output this season. 

“Nobody puts more expectation on me than myself," Kelce said, via ESPN.com. “That’s just the heart of the competitor. That’s how I was raised. My father taught me that you can buy a man’s back, but you can’t buy his heart. With that being said, I come out here and make sure I put all my effort and focus into being the best player I can be."


Cowboys experiment with Jeremy Mincey at defensive tackle
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:53 am ET) The Cowboys can experiment with their defensive line because they have such an abundance of talent.

On Wednesday, the team tweaked defensive end Jeremy Mincey's role when they moved him in to play defensive tackle, per The Dallas Morning News.

The Cowboys added Greg Hardy and drafted Randy Gregory to bolster the defensive line this offseason. With the newly-added depth, the team is trying out new looks to determine what works best.

“We were working a bunch of different combinations [Wednesday], which was great,” Mincey said. “Randy Gregory is coming along. Really solid pass rusher. They had me and Mr. Kraken (Hardy) here working together. You know what I mean? A lot of good, man. We’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of players you can trust. I think we’ll make some impactful plays for the Cowboys.”

Mincey led the team with six sacks last year.


Report: Ravens to sign veteran CB Cassius Vaughn
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(11:41 am ET) The Ravens have agreed to terms on a contract with cornerback Cassius Vaughn , according to The Baltimore Sun

Vaughn is being signed to a veteran minimum deal. 

This appears to be a move to add depth to a position that was depleted with injuries a year ago. The Ravens recently signed Kyle Arrington to the secondary as well. 

With the Lions in 2014, Vaughn started five of the 13 games he appeared in and intercepted two passes. 


Bucs sign K Brandon Bogotay, waive C Ben Gottschalk
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:38 am ET) The Buccaneers were busy during the third day of organized team activities.

The team announced it has signed kicker Brandon Bogotay and waived center Ben Gottschalk.

Bogotay was a tryout player at rookie minicamp and previously a member of the Browns' practice squad. Gottschalk was with the Chiefs' practice squad last season.


Lions DT Haloti Ngata wants to fill void left by Suh, Fairley
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:28 am ET) There isn't much Haloti Ngata has to prove on the football field. He's a five-time Pro Bowler and is widely considered one of the best defensive players in the game.

The 31-year-old, though, wants to prove he can fill the void left by the departure of former Lions players Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, per The Detroit Free Press.

"You definitely miss (Ndamukong) Suh and (Nick) Fairley, but I'm here to try to ease that a little bit," he said. "The guys that have been here are kind of showing the younger guys what it's been about here. I think they're doing a great job and hopefully once I catch on I can continue to push the younger guys along and get some wins."

Ngata, who is in the last year of his current contract, is embracing the different schemes he's been involved in. He's being asked to do a number of different things he didn't do for the last nine seasons as a member of the Ravens.

"I love it," Ngata said. "Just the defense that (Teryl Austin is) running here, it's awesome. It's a change for me. A lot of the attack, penetrate, aggressive defense, it's awesome. I still got to get used to it, but so far I'm loving it."

Ngata recorded 31 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions in 12 games last season.


 
 
 
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